Holidays at Disneyland – Everything You Need to Know

Updated July 25, 2020

What’s more magical than Halloween Time at Disneyland? I dare say Holidays at Disneyland.

Imagine the already understood magic of the park with gingerbread smells piped in, amazing decor everywhere and holiday music playing.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Discounted Tickets & Things You Need to Know

  • Get Away Today always has discounted tickets and the best service. For details on what’s currently available, check this link.
  • The entire Holiday 2018 merchandise collection arrived at World of Disney on October 19, 2018. Take a tour with me to see everything for purchase this season.

Find me on Facebook for more updates as they are released.

An Overview

From November 8, 2019 until January 6, 2020, the park transforms. Beautiful holiday decor adorns every part of the park possible. A 60 foot Christmas tree compliments Main Street with 70,000 lights and 2,000 custom made ornaments. A 50 foot Christmas tree sits on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure.

Disneyland Resort is open 365 days a year, so count on a Christmas visit if you wish, but know the parks will be super crowded.

Both parks have tree lighting ceremonies at around 5pm every day. Carolers walk the parks with hand bells, singing classic tunes, while the trees come to life. It’s a fun event to see if you’re close by.

As always, check the entertainment schedule prior to visiting for specifics on each day’s events and times for Holidays at Disneyland.


Seasonal Transition

Halloween Time ends at the stroke of midnight on October 31, 2019. Cast members will work through the night to take down Halloween decor.

Holiday decor will continue to go up the next day and will be completely finished when Holidays at the Disneyland Resort officially begins on November 8, 2019.

Note: You’ll often seen Holiday decor going up prior to the end of the Halloween season. This post shows what Disneyland looked like on October 29, 2019 for reference.

How to Ensure You Ride Every Attraction With a Wait Time of 20 Minutes or Less

Arrive an hour prior to opening and follow my strategies detailed in this post for the most efficient way to move through the park during this busy season:

My Ideal Day for You at Disneyland

To be sure you get to enjoy lots of attractions and see all of the limited time holiday happenings, follow this plan:

Arrive an hour prior to park opening and follow one of my strategies in this post.

Doing so will allow you to get LOTS of attractions done prior to the afternoon, at which point I recommend you take a break from the parks. Go back to your hotel to rest, nap, swim, etc. Then, return to the park to follow this plan:

+Grab a spot between 2:45pm and 3:00pm anywhere in Town Square to watch the 3:30pm parade.

+After the parade ends, stick around for the flag retreat ceremony just after. That’s usually around 4:30pm. (The 3:30pm parade starts near it’s a small world and takes a bit to make its way to the front of the park, where you will be if you follow this plan.)

+At 5:00pm, the Disneyland Christmas tree is lit. Watch it from Main Street, between the Emporium and the Magic Shop.

+After the tree lighting is finished, walk down Main, veer right at the hub and walk down the path toward the Matterhorn. Pass the Matterhorn on your right and head toward it’s a small world. The first holiday lighting for this attraction happens at 5:15pm each day. You only have 10 minutes to make it there, so no tomfoolery. Focus!

So, from 3:30pm – 5:30pm, you get to see 4 awesome experiences. What’s left for limited time holiday events? The castle lighting (called “winter enchantment” on the Disneyland entertainment schedule), fireworks and snow. Castle lightings are at 7:30pm and 8:30pm. There is no need to camp out for these lightings. Arrive 15 minutes early and grab a spot near the castle so you have a good view of the lighting and snow fall after. Find more info on snow here.

Let’s review the line up:

3:30pm – Christmas Fantasy Parade
4:30pm – Flag Retreat Ceremony
5:00pm – Christmas Tree Lighting
5:15pm – it’s a small world Holiday Lighting
7:30pm/8:30pm – Sleeping Beauty Castle Lighting (with snow)
9:30pm – Believe in Holiday Magic Fireworks (with snow)

A few notes:

+Town Square is the section at the front of the park between the Main Street Railroad Station and Main Street. If you arrive early enough to grab your spot, see what’s available on the platform near the actual train station entrance. That area gives you a great view since you’ll be looking down to see the parade.

+The Flag Retreat Ceremony isn’t holiday-related, but I encourage you to watch it. It’s so touching and honors our military beautifully. I think it’s a great thing for adults and kids, both, to witness.

+Only have one day and need to include Fantasmic! in your plan? No problem. The strategies I shared above include a stop to grab a FASTPASS for this show. If you follow one of those plans, you should pull a FASTPASS for the earlier Fantasmic!, which runs at 9:00am. See this show and then stay right where you are for the fireworks show. It will snow in this area after fireworks. I share all about Fantasmic!, with info on dining packages and how to use a FASTPASS for reserved viewing, in this post.

+Most days include the times I detailed above, but some might differ. Please check the entertainment schedule prior to your day. You can find this online at this link or printed on the entertainment guide that you can pick up on your way into the parks. They’re located next to the maps. The free Disneyland App also has the guide. Locate it in the drop down menu on the main page. If you don’t have the app downloaded already, be sure you do before your visit. You can find it at this link.

+After this block of events, grab a FASTPASS (if you’re not already selecting them via MaxPass during your break and while watching the entertainment) and enjoy dinner. Then, refocus on attractions. Catch a castle lighting at 7:30pm or 8:30pm. Watch fireworks at 9:30pm. You can watch fireworks from in front of the castle, Main Street, near it’s a small world, or by the Rivers of America. All of those locations include snow at the end of the show. My favorite place to watch fireworks is from it’s a small world. It’s typically less crowded than the other options and I love seeing the projections on the it’s a small world facade. Arrive 30 minutes prior to the show to grab a spot. Don’t fuss with sitting down or camping out too early. You can watch standing up. Kids will want to jump around during the snowfall, anyway.

My Ideal Day for you at California Adventure

California Adventure includes a simpler plan that what you’ll find at Disneyland.

As with any day, arrive an hour prior to park opening and follow one of my strategies in this post.

This will allow you to complete ALL attractions by early afternoon. Once you’re finished, return to your hotel room to rest, nap, swim, etc. Then, head back to DCA early evening to see the Christmas tree lighting, enjoy the Festival of Holidays, visit Santa Claus, repeat favorite attractions, and to see more holiday entertainment.

Start your afternoon entertainment line up with Mickey’s Happy Holidays that starts at 4:00pm. Catch this at Carthay Circle. The Christmas Tree lighting is at 4:55pm each day, similar to Disneyland. No need to arrive super early for this. Walk up just a few minutes prior and make sure you have a view of the tree. It’s located at the end of Buena Vista Street, in front of Elias & Company.

After the tree lighting, head to Grizzly Peak to see Santa at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. I much prefer my kids see Santa here rather than Disneyland, as the set up is entirely magical. Santa is at DCA from 8:30am to 6:30pm. Go here after the tree lighting so you don’t risk missing him. I share more on Santa here.

I also recommend you make time for the Feliz Navidad Street Party. This typically takes place at the following times each day:

  • 1:00pm
  • 2:15pm
  • 4:15pm
  • 5:15pm
  • 6:30pm
  • 7:30pm

With what I suggested above – about focusing on attractions, breaking at your hotel and then returning early evening, I would plan on the 7:30pm Viva Navidad Street Party. Arrive 20 minutes early to grab a spot for viewing. This is located in the Paradise Gardens area of the park, which is past Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, on your way toward Goofy’s Sky School. While you’re in this part of the park, walk through Paradise Gardens to see more holiday fun.

Before and/or after all of the above, Enjoy Festival of Holidays. I absolutely love this recent addition to California Adventure. I share all about it here.

Let’s review the line up for your afternoon/evening at DCA:

  • 4:00pm – Mickey’s Happy Holidays
  • 4:55pm – Christmas Tree Lighting
  • 5:10pm – first snow in Grizzly Peak
  • 5:15pm – See Santa Claus (only on site until Christmas)
  • 6:30pm – Viva Navidad Street Party
  • Festival of Holidays (food, entertainment, etc)

Note: Most days include the times I detailed above, but some might differ. Please check the entertainment schedule prior to your day. You can find this online at this link or printed on the entertainment guide that you can pick up on your way into the parks. These guides are located next to the maps. The free Disneyland App also has the guide. Locate it in the drop down menu on the main page. If you don’t have the app downloaded already, be sure you do before your visit. You can find it at this link.


Two attractions are completely redesigned for the holidays. They’re limited time. Check them out:

it’s a small world holiday – Hear the iconic song from the original ride along with a holiday medley, as this ride transforms into a holiday treat. The outside is as amazing as the inside. Every 15 minutes, a holiday projection show will light up the exterior of the attraction for a short show, just lasting a few moments. It’s a site to see. Don’t miss it.

Haunted Mansion Holiday – Jack Skellington and friends celebrate Halloween and Christmas all wrapped into one. Don’t miss the gingerbread house in the main parlor and be sure to notice the fresh baked smells, too.



It snows three times most evenings at Disneyland. (Please check the entertainment schedule each day for confirmation on these times, as they seem to keep changing this year.)

Those times are:

  • 7:30pm – for the first official Sleeping Beauty Castle lighting (lights will dim just before)
  • 8:30pm – for the second castle lighting (lights will dim just before)
  • After fireworks

For the first two events (at the castle lightings), you’ll find snow only near the castle.

For the snow after fireworks, you’ll find it at the castle, near it’s a small world, on Main Street and near the Rivers of America. All four of these areas are recommended for viewing fireworks, as projections will accompany the show along with snow falling at the end.

Note: I recommend – at any time of the year – watching fireworks as soon as possible during your Disneyland visit. The show sometimes gets cancelled due to high winds, so don’t save watching fireworks for your last night there.

California Adventure:

Beginning at 5:10pm, it snows every 10ish minutes in Grizzly Peak on the trail that leads back to Grizzly River Rapids and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

Holiday Food

***Christmas Day reservations opened on October 28, 2019. I share more here.

The holiday treats around the park are divine!

Go here to review Disneyland’s official foodie guide for 2019.

And here is Disneyland’s official candy guide for 2019.

This link has the 2019 guide to Festival of the Holidays including all seasonal food from Disney California Adventure.

I have also listed a few spots in the parks not to miss:

Holiday themed Beignets – Find these at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. They’re Mickey Shaped and totally worth the calories. You’re going to walk 10 miles during a day’s visit anyway. Indulge! 2018 includes Candy Cane flavor.

Jolly Holiday Bakery – The Jolly Holiday Bakery is always one of my favorite stops for dining in general, but their sweet treats during the holidays, including gingerbread men, are so delicious. Be sure to stop there for a bite to eat.

Trolley Treats at California Adventure and Candy Palace Bakery at Disneyland – plus Pooh Corner in Critter Country – have many holiday selections for you to enjoy in the parks or to take home.

Christmas Day Dinner (2018) can be enjoyed buffet style at Paradise Pier’s PCH Grill, Storyteller’s Cafe, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Napa Rose.

New Year’s Eve Dinner (2017) is hosted at Paradise Pier’s PCH Grill.

Festival of Holidays

This part of the Holidays at Disneyland celebration lasts through January 8, 2019 instead of January 6, 2019 like everything else.

It includes entertainment, food, drinks and more all derived from the many holidays from around the world celebrated during this time of year.

Don’t miss all the delicious food and drink temptations available. This link shares 2019 menus for booths throughout the park.

The Sip and Savor Pass is available for 2019. The price is $56 for all guests and $51 for annual passholders. You’ll receive a lanyard with 8 tabs to redeem for 8 eligible items at the Festival of Holidays booths. Buy yours at Kingswell Camera Shop, Seaside Souvenirs, Rushin’ River Outfitters or at kiosks in the Festival of Holidays area.

Candy Canes

***2019 dates are here!

Candy Canes can be found at The Candy Palace (Disneyland) and Trolley Treats (California Adventure). They are serious business, friends.

People line up at each candy shop at park opening to receive a special wrist band entitling them to a single candy cane.

Take a look at my full candy cane post everything you need to know.

Special Events

Disney Viva Navidad (featuring Three Kings Day Celebration) – At California Adventure, Latino music, dance lessons, festivities, delicious food and more make this part of DCA a ton of fun.

Festival of Holidays – This fun event that started in 2016 is returning and I love it! Enjoy cultural food dishes, celebrate holidays from around the world, see exciting entertainment, shop for goodies and more.

Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour – For $85, enjoy a tour through the park while learning information on holiday celebrations from years past, ride holiday attractions, see a parade and enjoy yummy treats. Note: I enjoyed this tour in 2016 and was told this year’s version is similar. Check out my full review.

009Santa Claus

There are two options to meet Santa at the Disneyland Resort until December 24, 2019. Both visits are free and should have PhotoPass photographers on site to take your picture professionally, in addition to snapping a photo with your phone or camera if you wish.

From 12.26.2018 – 1.1.2019, you can see Santa Goofy in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area in DCA instead of Santa Claus.

I’m a huge fan of PhotoPass+ and encourage you to read up on what it offers because the images taken with Santa will be available with your others if you purchase the pass. If you do not purchase PhotoPass+, you can still use the (free) PhotoPass card to purchase a print out of your image at the Main Street Photo Supply Company in Disneyland. Or, simply purchase MaxPass to get all of the images from this encounter and everything else throughout your visit. All PhotoPass privileges are included in your $15 a day MaxPass purchase.

You can see Santa in Disneyland in Critter Country at a sweet country setting, as you were able to in previous years. The line is typically longer here than your other option, but the pictures are cute.

Santa at DCA can be found in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This set up far exceeded my expectations. You can see Santa here, find other characters photo ops, play Elf Games throughout the trail, sign Santa’s Nice List and more. I recommend this option over Disneyland.

Find lots more on Santa at DCA from my 2017 visit at this link.

15037294_1072394209524888_7414972290916840010_nDisneyland Santa is a cute, country style. His park times aren’t always posted, so check the entertainment schedule before you visit.

This year, you should be able to visit with Tigger and a friend, then Winnie the Pooh, and finally Santa in the cute trail found at the back of Critter Country.

12294807_852595454838099_1337501083840820490_nSanta makes special appearances at the Disneyland Resort Hotels, too.

From November 16, 2019 until December 24, 2019, find him at:

  • Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel: Crystal Cove Foyer
  • Disney’s Grand California Hotel & Spa: Great Hall
  • Disneyland Hotel: near the Grand Ballroom

Santa meets guests from around 4:30pm to 8:30pm, with small breaks throughout. The Santa meet ups at the DLR Hotels are open to everyone. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel. PhotoPass+ photographers are typically on site, so don’t forget to take advantage if you bought a package.

Times will increase mid-December to see more children before Santa heads back to the North Pole.

Carolers also walk the lobby of the Grand Californian singing traditional holiday songs from around 4:30pm to 8:30pm. Love them!

Check out what Santa looks like in each location.

The Disneyland Hotel – perfectly retro, just like the hotel:

15171192_1088012494629726_8085546222178479570_nThe Grand Californian Hotel – traditional with such a beautiful tree behind him:

15241777_1088012561296386_5114203025467100487_nParadise Pier – fun and whimsical with a beachy feel:

(That’s not Santa. That’s my dopey friend, Tyler. Santa hadn’t arrived when we visited.)

15181617_1088012607963048_2492452555893659004_nBreakfast with Santa

The Patina Group (who owns Catal, Uva, Naples and Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disney) hosts the most darling breakfast each year with Santa.

I encourage you to take a look at what all is included in it and book soon if you’re interested. This event sells out quickly.

Visit this post for all the details.


World of Color

World of Color – Season of Light is always a popular show that brings a holiday twist with so much to see.

Be sure to read up on FASTPASSES and how you can get one to secure a spot in the reserved viewing area.

The show, according to Disney, will entertain you by “celebrating the warm and heartfelt spirit of the holidays. ‘World of Color – Season of Light’ will take guests through a sparkling winter fantasy, combining classic holiday songs with memorable moments from treasured Disney animated films to create an experience filled with magic.”

A Christmas Fantasy Parade

A Christmas Fantasy Parade – This is one of my absolute favorite parts of Holidays at Disneyland. The skating reindeer! The snowmen! The gingerbread men! I could write an entire post on how great this parade is. Do. Not. Miss. It.

It runs at 3:30pm and 6:00pm most days.

For the first time, in 2018, the Plaza Inn will be hosting a dining package that coordinates with this beloved parade. This package is replacing the one designed for the Pixar Play Parade. Other than a tweak in the menu, everything should work the same. I am a big fan of dining packages, so I’m excited about this fun addition. Check out all about this dining package in this post.

My favorite place to watch this parade is from Town Square, which is the section at the front of the park between the Main Street Railroad Station and Main Street.

I recommend watching the first parade (around 3:30pm each day) if possible with the following plan:

Grab a spot between 2:45pm and 3:00pm anywhere in Town Square. Then, stick around for the flag retreat ceremony just after the parade ends. That’s usually around 4:15pm. And, finally, at 5:00pm, the tree lighting occurs nearby, too, at the beginning of Main Street. So, from 3:30pm – 5:00pm, you get to see 3 important events all from one great vantage point.


Believe…….in Holiday Magic Fireworks is a big hit with guests and features traditional Christmas music.

I share all about fireworks at Disneyland with tips on where to watch in this post.

Candlelight Procession

Candlelight Procession will happen December 7 and 8, 2019. The shows are held at the Disneyland Railroad Station in Town Square and is invite-only with only a few spots left for those willing to camp out HOURS prior – if not the day before – to be part of it.

Disneyland is also very hush-hush about how all of this comes together, who is invited and how to become part of it.

In 2019, I was invited as a guest of Disney and it was nothing short of amazing. I share all about that experience here.

I recommend avoiding the front of the park during these two nights, as the likelihood of getting a seat isn’t good. If you want to try to catch a glimpse of the show, be prepared to circle the area with other guests as directed by cast members to keep the area safe and secure.

Disneyland Resort Hotels

The Disneyland Resort Hotels are lovely during the holiday season.

Each the three Disneyland Resort Hotels is decked out in holiday decor and if you have the time, I recommend walking over to browse each.

You can find lovely photo ops, gingerbread houses and more.

TV Specials

For holiday themed Disney shows, go to this link.

You’ll find who is featured for 2018 and when to watch!


Visit this link to see everything in stock for the 2019 holiday season.


On October 3, 2019, Disney opened reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at the Disneyland Hotel.

Click here to see what all it entails with the option to make your reservation, too. Or, call the dining line at 714.781.DINE.

Note: I have never done this meal as it’s out of my budget, but many readers have. I’ve never had one suggest it’s anything less than worth every penny. Enjoy!

New Years Eve

New Year’s Eve is crazy, crowded fun. Be ready to brave the crowds and bring plenty of patience.

Here is what is in store for the 2019 celebrations at each park.

Annual Passholder Corner

Check out what’s new this year for Disneyland Resort APs at this link.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney, which is already filled with plenty to do, turns into a fun place to visit during the holiday season. There are holiday decorations throughout and each restaurant has decor, too. This link shares four ideas direct from Disney on what you shouldn’t miss.

Catal, located in Downtown Disney, hosts a darling Breakfast with Santa I mentioned earlier with limited availability. Check out all the details and book soon! I’ll be at the first breakfast this year with my family and will share tons of photos from our visit.

The Happiest Place on Earth Just Got MerrierMy Suggestions

  • Do not miss Cars Land. The decor here is so amazing and I’ve heard first hand from Disney execs that it’s one of their most celebrated creations ever. Pay close attention to the garland as you walk in. It’s all fantastic. Santa Mater can also be found just outside the Cozy Cone Motel.
  • See the tree lighting each day in each park around 5pm.
  • See the castle lighting with snow each night at 6:00pm, 7:30pm and then again with fireworks. Ask a cast member to confirm times for your visit, as sometimes these vary.
  • See a brief, 3 minute projection show, at it’s a small world every 15 minutes and until close, starting at 5:15pm each evening.
  • Choose Santa at California Adventure over Disneyland for both design and less wait time.
  • Absolutely do not miss the Christmas parade. Make time for this and schedule your day around it. Grab the entertainment guide on your way in at the turn stiles, so you know how to plan. Choose the late afternoon parade for less sun, as it’s usually quite bright during the earlier parade.
  • If you have to choose one holiday treat to indulge in, I recommend the beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square.
  • Slow down and enjoy the entire park as a whole. We often get so busy at Disneyland that we miss the details. I try to take at least 30 minutes during a visit to grab a coffee, walk around, take pictures, and soak up all that I would have missed otherwise while corralling children. Start early each day and arrive an hour prior to official park opening. Follow one of my strategies to get LOTS done in the first few hours. Then, take a break in the afterhoon and relax. There’s so much to see. Enjoy!
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  1. Dear Casey
    Thank you SO much for the information. I was really worried about my surprise holiday plan but I feel much more calm now 🙂 I will be in LA only for 2 days on 24th and 25th Dec this year. I am taking my little girl on my work trip and this will be her xmas present. I can only afford to visit one day, I am really not sure which day will be better in terms of crowds. which one would it be better to go, on 24th or 25th? I am hoping to leave the park to get the 5 years old rested for a couple of hours in the afternoon and go back for fire works, but am worried if we would be able to get back in… Lastly, Do I have to book a stroller to rent? or they have plenty to go around? Thank you again so much!!! Love from UK

    • Hi, Lucy.

      I would book your stroller off site just in case Disneyland doesn’t have them available. They rarely run out, but during this busy time of year, it’s possible.

      Here is info on booking off site with a discount code:

      Crowds will feel similar in each park. I would visit Disneyland for the essential holiday experience and follow my suggestions in this post for my ideal day for you at Disneyland. Leaving around 5:00pm should be OK, as capacity (when it happens – and it’s more rare than most people understand), typically only shuts the park down from around 1:00pm until around 5:00pm.


  2. Hi Casey,
    We love following your plans. I love your plan for the Christmas shows, the one starting with the parade, and the flag retreat, but we have scheduled the Plaza Inn Dining package, which is for the second parade. How can we see all of those things with the second parade instead of the first one? Thank you!

    • Hi, Kari. Follow my list of what my ideal day for you would be….then see the parade at 6:00pm after you complete the rest of the stops. During the first parade, enjoy attractions or other entertainment. Have fun!

      • Is there a logical order to see these; the lighting of the tree, flag retreat, castle lighting, small world lighting, second parade? How will this part of the day work for timing with second parade. Not worried about morning. Just these events. Thanks!

  3. hello casey,i live in japan.
    I’m always reading your article.

    i reserved tomorrowland skylounge new year’s eve experience .
    is this good idea?

    Do you have any other good ideas?
    I am looking forward to your article in the future.

  4. Thank you for the wonderful information Casey. Will be in the park 11/15-18. Downtown Disney and Goofy’s kitchen on 11/14 for a late afternoon arrival to Disneyland Hotel. Reservations for Plaza Inn dining package and 6 pm parade in place, Christmas Tea on Saturday for my birthday. Focus on DCA Sunday and looking forward to Festival of Holiday’s treats list soon. Advice to slow down and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season greatly appreciated!

  5. Thank you for all the information, especially to slow down and take the time to enjoy all the sights and sounds! Staying at Disneyland Hotel 11/14-18 with 8 year old grandson, daughter in law(not his mom). We are the Disney fanatics in the family and it is my birthday weekend. Reservations for Plaza Inn Parade package and Christmas Tea at the hotel might be mist highly anticipated for me, while Aiden thrilled to build a droid and Nikki thrilled she is coming along! Hope Christmas treat offerings and Festival of Holidays food soon revealed.

  6. We’re going to be in the parks on Thanksgiving 2019 (I know, I know) and I’m trying to find out menu info for table service or other sit down dinner options – besides the big fancy buffet options at the hotels. Do you know any menu details for Plaza Inn, Carnation, River Belle, and Cafe Orleans?

    • Hi, Judy.

      It’s all a bit confusing this year. I would call the dining line directly to inquire so they can find exactly what you’re looking for. Their number is 714.781.DINE. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi! Do you happen to know the typical Fantasmic schedule for the holiday season? I’m hearing that it’s only showing on the weekends and then moves to nightly during peak holiday time like Thanksgiving week and the last half of December. I was hoping to catch it mid-week in November, but it doesn’t look like it’s showing. ? I figured that there’ll be plenty of other holiday events to experience to make up for it, right?

      • Thank you for the reply! I just re-read your holiday article and you’re so right! There IS so much to do! I’m so excited! I think we’ll be okay missing Fantasmic just this once. Besides, it’ll give us a good reason to come back when it IS showing. =)

  8. Visiting from Australia this December for the third time but this will be the first visit for the Christmas season. We will be spending 10 days in the parks with Christmas Day being our last day. I would love to do a proper Christmas dinner at one of the buffets but I am worried that the parks will hit capacity and we won’t be able to get back in. I was thinking that instead we could try and book a Fantastmic package at Blue Bayou for Christmas Day instead. Any advice about what would be a better idea?

    • I love this idea, Rochelle! I would book the Blue Bayou Fantasmic! dining package if you decide to go in that direction.

      More on this here:

      Note, however, that even a dining reservation won’t ensure you entry to the park. If it’s at capacity, and you’re not able to enter the park, you won’t be charged the $10 per person for not showing, but you’ll miss the meal.

      Capacity days are much more rare than people realize. There are truly only a handful a year. When it happens it’s typically only for a few hours in the late afternoon when you really don’t want to be in the park, anyway. If it reaches capacity, you should be let back in by early evening.

      Let me know what other questions you have.

  9. I know it’s probably a bit early to be talking about Christmas at Disneyland but I have a question! My memory from Disneyland years and years ago was that in the winter the park was open shorter hours and parades and fireworks were only on the weekends. Is that still true? We were talking about a Tuesday-Thursday trip in early December but don’t want to miss all the parades and fireworks and fantasmic etc etc but not being there on a weekend.

  10. Disneyland during Christmas is my favorite time to go. I love the lights and wreaths. The Christmas Tree is always amazing! The Candlelight Procession was awesome. We saw it on the 2nd this year. It even had Chris Pratt there.

  11. Hi! Thank you so much for putting all this information together! So helpful!
    We are going to Disneyland/California Adventure 12/10-11 with our 4 year old.
    Is it better for us to spend 2 days at one park or 1 day at each? What do you recommend?

  12. Hi Casey, as I will be visiting the park from 3-5 Jan, would you recommend one park per day tickets or Park hopper tickets? I’ve check and on average Disneyland is opened 2-3 hours more than California adventure but I’m not sure if that’s worth the extra money?

  13. Hi! I am wondering if you can share with me procedure of what happens when DL hits capacity, and do you expect DCA to hit capacity on Dec 31? I am flying my daughter down to surprise her on her 16th birthday (31st) and we can’t get in till 9am by the time we get to the park it’s sure to be close to 11, I want her birthday day to be magical but also know it’s a crazy busy crowd day and want to have the best plan in place ahead of time. Wish we could fly down the day before but just couldn’t make that fit schedules.

  14. Hello,
    Thank you for the updates! A couple of questions for you:
    Have you seen the menu for the Plaza Inn Christmas dining package? I’m trying to find what the vegetarian options are.
    Is it worth doing that dining package for this parade? We go 12/9-12/15 and I’m guessing it will be crazy.
    Thank you for all that you do!


  15. Hello! We’re planning a jam-backed one-day in Disneyland and DCA on Nov 10 and we’re trying to plan what parade time works best for us. Sounds like the Christmas Parade is at 3:30 and 6PM. I have two questions that I’d be grateful to hear your opinion: 1) Is it basically true that the 1st parade starts near Small World at 3:30 (arriving near Town Square about 20 minutes later), and then then 2nd parade at 6pm starts at Town Square and arrives at Small World about 20 minutes later? 2) I’m sure the ambiance will be better at night. Should we go “out of our way” to see the 6pm parade simply because it’s dark out, or should we not worry too much and just do whatever is most convenient?

    Thanks so much!

  16. Do you know what’s happening with the current shows at DCA (e.g., Disney Junior Dance Party, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, etc.) during the 2018 Holiday Season? I went onto Disney’s daily schedule of events page today and it looks like after Nov. 7th, they have all disappeared from the schedule (except for DJ’s Dance ‘n Drive)! Do you know if they will be replaced with other, perhaps more holiday-themed shows?

  17. Hi!
    So will the Christmas decor still be up January 6th or will it be taken down the night before? We arrive the 4th early but I wasn’t planning on using our 4 day park hopper till the 5th to 8th. Unless it would be better to just get in there the 4th after our flight and have more time seeing the decorations… I was hoping for at least 2 days with the holiday decor if possible. 🙂

  18. The only day my sister and I are going to visit is Saturday, December 1st. I know the Candlelight Processional will be happening that evening and we’ll need to avoid the Town Square area part of the time. Do you have anything already written about how to handle that, and about when we need to avoid trying to exit or enter DL? Or tips and tricks to navigating through there? We don’t plan to see/bear any part of the Processional, but probably want to concentrate on rides and hopefully catch the second Fantasmic showing, since we will be kidless. 🙂

  19. Hi Casey, do you have any tips for braving through the new years week (ie: Jan 2-6)? Will it be less crowded compared to the Christmas period?
    Also, would it be possible to get the birthday pins although it is not my birthday month? (it is a birthday trip though… just 1 month late).
    Thank you!

  20. Hi Casey!
    Our trip is planned for 3 days Nov 12-14.
    Sounds like we might be lucky enough to see some Christmas decorations (yay!).
    Are most of the decorations and holiday parades running that early?
    What do you think our chances are for fireworks? This is a Mon, Tues, Wed. Is there somewhere I can find a firework schedule?
    We arrive the Sunday night prior. Would we be able to see the fireworks from Downtown Disney that night, even if we don’t have park passes?

  21. In reading different forums, I read that Disneyland doesn’t put on parades on Christmas Eve because it isn’t as busy as other days during this time. Is that still true? I am planning on taking my family this Christmas Eve (2018) which falls on a Monday and I would LOVE my little ones to see this parade!

  22. Hi Casey!

    My husband and I are headed to Disneyland on Dec 30 for one day only. We don’t have magic morning but are planning to be there an hour prior to opening. I’m just wondering what the best plan is for us to follow since we know it will be crazy busy that day. Thank you for all the amazing planning you do! We can’t wait to get there!!

  23. In a hilarious turn of events, we went to the wrong park on the wrong day to get our wrist bands for the candy canes (12/24/17). ?
    BUT! On Christmas Day, an hour after CA opened, we walked past Trolley’s Treats and they were still handing out wrist bands! It was a Christmas miracle! We didn’t even have to get to the park early or rush or stress or anything!

  24. Hi Casey,
    I’m visiting the parks on New Years Eve and New Years Day. I know it will be crazy busy on those days, but I’m trying to devise a do-able plan to be able to see as much entertainment/shows as possible. Definitely including the special New Years special entertainment. Would you be able to share a plan with me? Thank you so much!

  25. Aloha! Sorry I asked a question a couple of months ago in preparation for our trip and reading responses and other posts got me thinking.

    I am planning to be in the parks from December 30-January 3. We would have loved to come in early December but my husband and I are both teachers and need to wait for Christmas Break to visit.

    Do you find it necessary to stay all day during the week of Christmas and New Years in order to catch the nighttime entertainment?

    To preserve my marriage 😉 and avoid tired and grumpy “nothing-fights” my husband and I usually go early in the day and take a late-afternoon break and come back for nighttime activities. But after looking into it, I’m concerned that we may be denied re-entry into the parks due to crowd capacity. This will be our first Disney Christmas and I have no frame of reference. Any insight is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you again for all that you do!
    Love and Aloha from Hawaii!

    • Hi, Jade.

      Hope this catches you in time! For busy days like when you’re visiting, check upon leaving for the chance of a closure for capacity. Cast members can’t always share that info, but you might get an idea of how crowded it is by their response.

      Also, follow Disneyland Today on Twitter for the best info on park closures and re-entry times.

      I typically recommend avoiding the middle of the day with the heavy crowds, but if you are determined to stay through the evening at Disneyland, it’s likely going to be a necessity. Arrive early as you have suggested and get as much done in the early hours as possible. Then, slow down during the chaotic middle part of the day and shop, see a show, dine, etc. You’re more at risk for a capacity closure at the beginning of your trip instead of the end. The 2nd and 3rd will hopefully be a little less crazy.

      Happy New Year!

  26. Do you have a post specifically about new year’s eve? We’ll be there, one park per day for 5 days, starting Dec. 28 and I’m trying to decide how to plan out our trip 🙂

  27. HI Casey,
    I’m planing a last minute trip to Disneyland/DCA for New Years (12/31-1/3).. we’re taking our 10 month old and almost 3 year old, and I’m a little lost.. do you have a kind of check list of all the things I have to consider and plan for? Is our first time there and I want to be prepared!

  28. Hello, I’m from Brazil and I want to spend the New years Eve at Disneyland. Do you think if I arrive before the park opens i can visit both parks in the same day? I intend to go to Disneyland first and in the afternoon go to California Adventure since this one is not so crowded,isn’t it? Is it a good idea? I’ve been there before and i already did both parks at the same day…

  29. Aloha Casey!

    A week upon returning home from our Disneyland trip this summer, my husband and I are decided we needed to plan our first trip to Disneyland for the Christmas season. Unfortunately, the only days we can be in the parks are from December 30 to January 3. We were planning to spread our time out over 5 days since we know crowds will be very heavy. I wanted to book a Character Dining experience at the Plaza Inn during our stay. I was thinking of booking it on New Year’s Eve as a way to kill a couple hours and step away from the madness that morning. Is this a rookie move? Should I book it after the New Year? Should I completely scrap it and save it for another trip?

    Seeking your “practically perfect in every way” wisdom 🙂

  30. Hi Casey…might have a chance to visit the first week of winter break…12/18-12/22 not staying on property. We don’t need to do everything as we have been before but am worried it will be too crazy to enjoy. Hoping for holiday magic but have never experienced Christmas at Disneyland. Thoughts? Thanks for all you do!

    • Hi, Erika.

      It’s busy, but so much fun. Don’t let the crowds deter you, especially if you’re already familiar with the parks and don’t have to cross everything off your list. Arrive early, use FASTPASSES, break after lunch and return to stay late. You have my vote. Go for it!

  31. Hi Casey – thank you for this website. I’m a major planner and your site is a GOLD MINE. Do you have a best guess as to the parade and fireworks times for this year’s holidays? I’m trying to make plans like dining reservations and stuff but Disney’s website isn’t showing showtimes yet for any of this stuff…It would be nice if they made it available at the same time as dining reservations! People like me have to plan ahead!!! 🙂

  32. Hi Casey:

    Love your work on the site!!!
    I Want your advice…I’m visiting DL for the first time. I’m fron El Salvador in Central America, and I’m traveling from Oct 30 to Nov 11 I was wondering what time Christmas decorations are up, I really wish I could see the park with Christmas decorations.

    • Hi, Rebeca.

      The decor starts going up just prior to Halloween ending and will be completely finished by the beginning of Holidays at Disneyland, which starts 11.10.2017. So, you’ll see both Halloween and Holidays during your trip. Perfectly planned!

      Please let me know if I can help with anything else.

  33. Just wanted to tell you as a long time Disney fan (41 years attending Disneyland) your blog is amazing and thank you for all the hard and information work you put into it

  34. Hi Casey. PLanning a trip to disney Nov. 14 – 18. how will crowd levels be? first timers and it’s hard not being able to plan like in disney world. will it be decorated for christmas?

  35. Hello! I just found your blog and I’m loving it! We are planning to take our kids to DL for their first time over Thanksgiving. Amy chance we need different tickets other than the 5-day park hopper tickets that we planned on purchasing? I sent an email via the DL website, but haven’t heard back yet.
    . Thank you in advanced from an inexperienced vacationers!

  36. This year we are spending Christmas in DCA (Dec 22-25) and celebrating my 40th birthday which is on Christmas Day. We are looking for a traditional holiday dinner to have on Christmas Day/My birthday in the park. So far, I have decided on The Storytellers Cafe – doesn’t seem too overpriced and I think my family will be happy with the buffet choices. What do you think? Is there a better choice for around the same price point?
    By the way, love the blog and now following you on facebook too!!
    Thanks for your time!

  37. Hi Casey,
    we’re planning a DL vacation for Thanksgiving week 2017.
    can you tell me what time(s) a day the Christmas parade is (or typically is)?
    will the PTN parade be at CA?
    and do the Candy Cane sales start after Thanksgiving?
    thanks much!!

    • Hi, Sheri.

      If memory serves, the parades are around 1:30pm and 4:30pm. I recommend the later option, as the sun is heavy during that first parade. Also, you can see the 4:30pm parade, stick around for the flag retreat ceremony, and then be right there for the tree lighting on Main Street, which typically happens at 5:30pm. Set up at the top of the steps at the Main Street Railroad Station for an awesome view. I’ll share more on this once Holidays begins this year.

      Paint the Night is slated to be at DCA when it returns, but we have no firm date on that yet.

      Candy cane sales typically start the day after Thanksgiving. Once the 2017 dates are available, I’ll update this post. I’ll also be there opening day of candy canes to share more. The 2016 dates are in this post for you to reference in case it can help you plan.

  38. Hi there! Thanks for the info. I am trying to decide when to book our family’s next trip– week before Thanksgiving or mid-January. I’ll be very pregnant so I’m considering enjoying the holiday celebrations in November. I love fantasmic and don’t want to miss it, would I need to book to be there on a Friday so I don’t miss it in November or will it be showing during the week (Tuesday-Thursday) since it will be holiday season? Will they tell me if I call Disney directly? Thanks!

    • Hi, Keila.

      Not sure if Disney would be able to tell you quite yet, as the schedule for November isn’t out yet. Disney cast members typically pull from many of the same resources we have as guests. Fantasmic! should be happening in November. Not sure if it will be happening mid-week. With it’s return, we’re all waiting to see how that’s handled. Hope so! Disney’s number is 714.781.4565 in case you want to call. If you find out any info, let us know! Hope you’re feeling great. 🙂

  39. Hi, do you think Fantasmic will run during the week days in December? On the Disneyland Calendar it only runs on the weekends in September and that is as far out as I can see so far. We will be there Monday-Friday in early December and it would be a bummer to miss that show. Also, any idea if there will be a night parade during the holidays this year? Does it only “snow” on main street during fireworks? Or are there other times or locations to see it “snow” too? Thanks so much!!!!!

    • Hard to tell about Fantasmic! during the weekdays at this point. I hope so!

      It snows on Main Street during the holiday fireworks show – also by it’s a small world and where you watch Fantasmic!

      The holiday parade should be back, but my understanding is that Paint the Night is moving to California Adventure. I’ll update this post as I learn more!

  40. Hi Casey! I know that we don’t actually have any info on 2017 yet, but I’m doing some pre-planning and had some questions. We went to DLR in January last year to experience Christmas for the first time. It was amazing, but way too cold for us. We’re trying to figure out when to go this year. It sounds like Santa doesn’t show up until after Thanksgiving. Is that true for the tree lighting ceremonies in the parks as well? (All of those things were gone when we went in January, so we don’t want to miss them again.) If we have to go after Thanksgiving, how busy is the first week after? I don’t want to get too late in December and freeze again. Thanks so much for all of your help.

  41. Great info as we plan for 2017. Is there anywhere with more details about new years at Disneyland specifically? We are thinking about going the week of new years but we’ve never been during that time specifically (we have been during the holiday time in general).

  42. I absolutely love your site and it definitely helped me plan our first trip last year with our 3 year old. We are going again this year and were planning on going the week of Thanksgiving because I heard that it is a lot quieter (11/20 – 11/23). After reading your post it sounds like the candy canes and santa don’t really show up until after Thanksgiving. Is that right? Also, do the Christmas parades and entertainment not start until after Thanksgiving too? Thank you for all your help!!

    • Hi, Larissa.

      All of Holidays starts the day the season starts, with the exception of the candy canes and Santa. The entertainment (fireworks, parades, decor, ride overlays, etc) starts immediately. Thanksgiving can be quite busy, but you’ll do just fine since you’re preparing. I’ll update this post as more info arrives.

      • Thank you! We decided to move our trip to the week after Thanksgiving so we don’t miss Santa (my 4 year old would be so sad to miss him) and I would be so sad to miss the candy canes. So happy to have all this information! I appreciate it 🙂

  43. I’ve been following your blog & facebook page for over a year now, patiently waiting until it was time for me to start planning my first trip to DLR. I planned to visit after May 2018, when I graduate college, but I recently was presented with an opportunity to visit THIS December. I am so excited to have the chance to visit during the holiday season and to see all of this extra magic. I am extremely grateful to your wealth of knowledge and have been ravenously reading your blog posts. Thank you for sharing with us and helping to make magic for other people. We appreciate you!

  44. We are planning on being in the parks December 30-January 1. I saw above you mentioned the tiered pricing. When does that start?

    How early do you think we need to arrive to avoid not being able to get in due to the park being at capacity?

    • Tiered pricing started earlier 2016. You’ll see the highest pricing during your visit. Arrive before opening so you can get stuff done before the crowds hit. It will be super busy. Capacity could happen by noon. Good luck!

  45. We’ll be visiting on the 25th & 26th of December. I know it will be crowded and will need a good plan. Would you recommend we schedule the Holiday tour to secure the fastpasses and a seat for the parade. We’re traveling with our 6 year old.

  46. Merry Christmas

    Will there be a Christmas tree light up at the DL town square?
    I know there’s one at DCA as it’s in the online time guide.

  47. Your site and info is helping me so much. Thank you!, how long do you usually have to stand in line to get a bracelet for a candy cane? We have a 9:30 am reservation at the Plaza Inn on Dec. 14.

  48. How would you plan to see the Christmas parade, Paint the Night and fireworks Friday the 18th? How long would you camp out at a spot (and where roughly)? Thanks!

    • Christmas parade is daytime, so choose which you prefer. See the first PTN from near it’s a small world and then stay in the same spot for fireworks. I’m there that day and am doing the Aladdin’s Oasis package that gives you reserved viewing for the parade. Hang out in that spot for fireworks right after. Highly recommend booking that package if you still can. Details here:

      • Do you mean stay there from 6:30 parade until 9:30 fireworks? That seems like a long time to wait for fireworks. During the 60th when we were there, the parade was at 8:30/8:50 and the fireworks at 9:30. Now there’s a 3 hour delay. I’m trying to figure out our strategy as well, but not sure it’s worth the long wait. Especially since we’re already getting there early for Paint the Night. We’ve never seen the holiday fireworks, so we definitely want to see them. Do you think we could just find a spot closer to 9-9:30? Plus where do you think the best viewing is ISASW or Main Street/castle area? Thanks…your blog is always so helpful!

          • We will be there the week of Thanksgiving, but have reservations for Aladdin’s Oasis on Nov 22 for the 6:30 parade. Your reviews have been very good, so we are going to try it. I’m just not sure about staying there for the fireworks, which doesn’t start till 9:30. Is that spot worth waiting another 2 plus hours? Thanks!

          • I see. Sorry for the confusion. Arrive 1.5 hours early for front row of the viewing area…..have one person get in line……then ask the rest to return 20 minutes prior to parade time to get settled in the spot you claim. If you’re not concerned with front row, an hour – 45 minutes suffices to claim your spot. The parade will start at it’s a small world, so watch that and take a break until fireworks. You can return to the same area, but of course, your spot won’t be there. Still, it’s a small world is a lovely place to watch the show because the projections are shown onto the backdrop of the attraction. And, it’s a nice break from the madness of in front of the castle and Main Street. While waiting, enjoy the Single Rider line at the Matterhorn, maybe a Fantasyland ride or two (Pinocchio, Snow White, or Mr. Toad), etc, etc.

            Does that make sense?

  49. Hi Casey! I need a current DCA strategy (4 kids, 2 adults) to meet Santa, Elena, and Elsa and Anna, as well as ride Soarin, Toy Story, and RSR, and see the Frozen show. Help! Thank you for your amazing work ??

  50. Do you think the glow with the show ears will match up with world of color and paint the night parade like they did during the 60th?

  51. Hi Casey, just discovered your very informative website – well done for sharing so much info!
    We are travelling from Australia to the US and will have 5 nts in Anaheim (staying at HJ) from Dec 14-19. Our kids are 13(son)&11(daughter). Just wondering if we should buy a 2 or 3 day pass (park hopper?)as we want to also go to Universal & a day shopping. As we won’t arrive at hotel until approx 9.30 am ish after long haul flight on Wed 14th, I’m thinking it’s best day for shopping. Would you suggest 2 or 3 day park-hopper ticket straight days in a row or go one day Disney, then one Universal (front of line pass) & then Disney again? Trying to fit into weekdays but some days will end up on the weekend. Is it best to get tickets through you or our Hotel?

    • Hi, Wendy. Thank you! I would choose 3 day tickets – hoppers or one park per day to save money – and visit Disneyland for 2 days and California Adventure for 1. Arrival day is best for shopping because that will be your most flexible time. Break up the Disney visits with one to Universal…..but do as many Disney days during the week that you can. I would do Disney on the 15th and 16th, Universal on the 17th and then Disney again on the 18th. If you get a break day in there, save Disney for the 19th and break on the 18th. The least expensive tickets that you will find are through Park Savers with my additional discount. You can find all those details in this post:


  52. We are going to Disneyland Dec 14-18 with our 4 year old. It’s our first time and we are so overwhelmed! I’m assuming it’ll be super busy? Where do we even start?

  53. Hi Casey! Do you know whether Santa is available the whole time the parks are open, or if there are specific hours that the booths are open? Also, any intel on whether Princess Elena will be doing one or multiple grand entrances during the day? Thx, and thx for the advice on doing a Park Hopper for our 1-day visit – defimtitely the right thing to do!

    • Hi, Rachel.

      I’ll be looking for Santa this Thursday on my visit and will be sharing photos and times as soon as they’re available. He’s typically there most of the day within each park. Always surprises me how late he stays.

      No info on Elena yet. I’ll be looking for that, too. We were told she’d be arriving with the holiday season, which starts on the 10th. Anxious to know more!

  54. Hi Casey-
    Thank you for this amazing website. I’m planning my daughter’s first trip to Disneyland for her birthday this December and this site is incredibly valuable in the process.

    The Disneyland website hasn’t yet posted times for the parades or WOC but I’m trying to make a couple dining reservations for special seating packages and stuff… can you advise when the parades and WOC (holiday edition) have been in the past holiday seasons on weekdays? Thanks!!

    • Keep checking the entertainment schedule for your dates. You can do so at this link. Just change the calendar date to reflect when you’re visiting:

      WOC Holidays has been during the week, too, so it’s hard to tell right now.

      I’ve just updated this post with more Paint the Night dates and times. And, I will update it, too, if Disney releases any special dining events with reserved viewing for shows/parades. Hope they do!

  55. Do you know if there is a dining package with aladdins oasis that includes preferred seating at Christmas fantasy parade? Thank you!

  56. Hi Casey! Thanks for all the info! I got to Disneyland often but I always come back to your site when I’m taking non Disney folks to Disneyland. Question – We going on Dec 3 and saw that the candlelight processional will be happening. What exactly is this? Is it a choir that performs? Will we have to camp out just to watch it?

    • It’s an invite only event with very limited space for “regular” park guests wanting to attend. People wait all day to get a spot. It’s held at the front of the park at the Main Street RR Station and causes quite a congested area for the two nights it runs. I recommend avoiding the front of the park on these nights. Without committing to waiting all day for a spot, you’re better off focusing elsewhere.

      • You’re very welcome! I just told my husband a couple days ago that you are doing my dream “job”. I would love to spend the time you do at the parks. One more question – do you happen to know if they will have the ice skating rink downtown again this year?

  57. Do you know when they start and how long it takes for them to take down the Christmas decorations?? we will be visiting in February and just wanted to make sure that It’s a Small World will be open again. We went around the same time last year and it was close (I cant remember if it was for refurbishment or to take down the Christmas lights). Thank you for all your wonderful information!!

    • it’s a small world is last to go down and stays Christmas until the third week of January. It takes a couple of weeks to transform back to normal. No official dates yet. I’ll keep this post updated as I hear more. Hope that works with your trip!

      • Thank you so much for replying!! One day we’ll brave the crowd and go when all the Christmas decorations and festivities are going on. But for right now, we try and go when it’s the least crowded =)

  58. Casey,
    We have been to DLR many times but have never been during the holidays. This year we will be enjoying New Years Eve and Day. We are thinking that with older teens DCA would be better for an older crowd? My husband and I would also like to have a drink or two. Also we have heard that DCA will still have World of Color should it rain? We would then hit DL New Years day. Any advice on this?
    BTW thank you for such a great site.

  59. Hi, Casey! I noticed Paint the Night is scheduled to happen the first night we arrive (12/4). Hasn’t there been a dining packing in the past (maybe at Blue Bayou) that includes premium seating for Paint the Night? As of now I can’t find an option to make a reservation for any kind of Paint the Night dining package on 12/4. Any idea if that will be an option as we get closer to December? Many thanks! Beth

  60. great post! We will be visiting the DLR on Christmas Day and would like to know what restaurant you would recommend to eat at on that day?

  61. Awesome information Casey, really appreciate the details, makes planning so much easier. Any news on Paint the night for Christmas – we arrive 11Dec for a week

  62. Thanks for all the great information Casey. Is Disneyland open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day? I can’t seem to find anything saying it’s open or not. If it is open, do you know how heavy the crowds are on those days?

  63. Hi Casey,

    I just booked a trip from January 3-7. According to Disneyland’s website, the holiday season will be running through January 8th. I saw in this thread that you responded to someone and let her know that holidays would be still be in full swing, which is perfect! My question is: Do they still do the tree lightings each night? I read something somewhere else that was saying they only do the tree lightings until December 24th, but that didn’t really make sense to me if Christmas is still in full swing. I’d love to hear your experience with this. Thanks so much for helping us all to plan our magical trips!

    • Hi, Cate. Good question. This detail – and if Santa sticks around – seems to change from year to year. I’ll update my Holiday post as I learn more on what you can expect in January.

  64. I’m so sad, I was hoping we would catch both the end of Halloween and the beginning of Christmas like we did a few years back. We loved the snow after the show. I wanted to take my kids back so bad to see it. We are going to be there Nov 2-9 I guess that’s what you get when you have to plan your vacations in advance and they don’t put up a schedule of events until the month of. 🙁

      • We will, how can one not enjoy Disneyland?! Do you know when Dapperdays is going to be? I’m thinking we will avoid it with little kids.
        Thanks for your blog and fb posts it really has been my goto for information. Best I have found! 🙂

  65. Is there not a Mickey’s Christmas party at Disneyland? I am so confused. If there is I’m trying to find out the hours. Thanks.

  66. Casey, super thorough! Very helpful.

    We are arrive Dec 1 to 3. You think there’s any shot at Paint the Night Parade? We totally thought the 60th anniversary would go through December and hate to miss it!

  67. Great advice, your enthusiasm shines through! Surprising my daughter on Dec 5 with day trip to the parks. Disneyland can’t say yet when the park will open, but I have to book flights ASAP. Do you know the average opening time of DL in December? Also, what time do the parades begin generally?

  68. Hi Casey! Sorry if this has already asked but in terms of crowds – would it be less busy to go in November as soon as Christmas first starts in Disneyland? Or waiting a week or two? We don’t plan on going until next year so our dates will be completely flexible – but our son will only be two years old, so obviously the less crowded the better! Thank you!!

    I love Christmas and love Disneyland, so I can’t wait to see the two together!

  69. Hi! Do you know when the Grand Californian puts up the decorations?…tree, gingerbread house etc..have booked two reservations one for Nov 13-19 and one of Nov 27-dec 2. We usually stay the sunday of Thanksgiving weekend each year and everything is up, but the earlier dates works better for school..have been told hat the Grand does the decoratioms last and it will be closer to Thanksgiving…wondered if you had any insight? Love your articles! Thanka for the help 🙂

    • Since Holidays starts November 10, the hotels should be decorated along with that timing. I looked back at my notes and see that the gingerbread house was up by November 15, 2015, so that’s definitely a good sign since it’s such an integral part of the holiday decor at the Grand Californian Hotel. I think you’ll be just fine with your timing. Disney seems to move everything up a bit each year. 🙂

      • Thank you so much for getting back to me! I hope you’re right 🙂 that does help knowing last year the house was up early! I did ask someone in the hotel the other day and they said thanksgiving probably but that they did not really know for sure. I still have awhile before I need to cancel one of the reservations. Ill keep checking and see if I can nail down a definitive answer from conceierge or the front desk. Thanks again love your articles and Facebook page!

  70. Hi! We are moving to SoCal and will be heading to DLR with our families (and a 3 year old, 1 year old, and 8 month old) for Thanksgiving and Christmas days! hahhaa Wondering if they have special food and where I should look to reserve? We will be staying at the Grand Californian for both holidays. We like fancy food and the girls are pretty used to that and enjoy the spectacle 🙂

    Also – (sorry for all the questions) – our 3 year old will be turning 4 and her birthday is the same day as Mickey’s! Do they do anything special for that day at the parks? We are debating taking them (nov 18) then again the next week for Thanksgiving, but if it’s super special to have the same birthday as the Mouse, we will figure out a way to be there since we live so close. 🙂

    Last question – do you know if they do anything special for Christmas morning etc? Or Christmas Eve? We haven’t booked those dates and if it’s just regular awesome then we might just go earlier that week when it might be less crowded.

    Thank you again for any advice!!! I already bought the princess dresses you suggested and they are beautiful!! I am going to wrap it up for birthday presents/ Disney announcement! 🙂 And we will have birthday breakfast at Minnie’s to see all the characters! 🙂

    • Hi, Kelly.

      I hope you love SoCal as much as we have. It’s heaven on earth!

      OK, check out the answers to your questions:

      We are moving to SoCal and will be heading to DLR with our families (and a 3 year old, 1 year old, and 8 month old) for Thanksgiving and Christmas days! hahhaa Wondering if they have special food and where I should look to reserve? We will be staying at the Grand Californian for both holidays. We like fancy food and the girls are pretty used to that and enjoy the spectacle. – As we get closer to the holidays, Disney will announce an option for Thanksgiving for sure. I’ll update this post and will share that option on as soon as I see it. Those reservations fill up fast, though, so book it as soon as you see it. Beyond a themed meal hosted by Disney, I highly recommend Napa Rose at the hotel you’re staying in. It’s lovely with a ‘fancy’ menu and unique food choices. More on that and other dining at the hotels here:

      You might also enjoy the afternoon tea at the Disneyland Hotel:

      Also – (sorry for all the questions) – our 3 year old will be turning 4 and her birthday is the same day as Mickey’s! Do they do anything special for that day at the parks? We are debating taking them (nov 18) then again the next week for Thanksgiving, but if it’s super special to have the same birthday as the Mouse, we will figure out a way to be there since we live so close. – Nothing comes to mind for an actual birthday celebration or even acknowledgement. If I learn of anything, I’ll return to this post and let you know.

      Last question – do you know if they do anything special for Christmas morning etc? Or Christmas Eve? We haven’t booked those dates and if it’s just regular awesome then we might just go earlier that week when it might be less crowded. – You could look into having your room decorated or any of the other services you can add on to your visit at this link, which specializes in adding extra magic to your stay:

      I can’t imagine the hotels not doing anything for Christmas Eve and morning, but I’m not recalling anything. I’m going to add this to my list for my next park visit and will let you know if I find anything you might be interested in. I visit once a week and share trip reports on Facebook. It’s a great place to stay connected. Feel free to ask again if you have any other questions!

      • Casey, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! 🙂 Today the reservations opened up for Thanksgiving meals (nothing special for specific holiday dinners, just general reservations so far) – so I made the ones I could. The times went fast!! 🙂 Thank you for all of your help! I got your email, and you answered all of my questions for sure! THANK YOU!!! 🙂 I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  71. We are planning a trip to Disneyland Nov 4 to 11 but we are flexible with our dates and could go a few days later (Nov 8 to 15 would be the latest). What do you recommend based on crowds and Christmas decor etc. We are coming from Edmonton Alberta Canada and this is a once in a lifetime trip for us so we want to make it super special for our 4 kids! We will buy a 5 day park hopper pass to enjoy the parks as much as we can.
    Thank you for your help.

    • Crowds during your timing – either option – won’t be horrendous. Really just depends on how much holiday you want to see. The latter option will allow you to see more attractions, as two of the holiday ones will be closed for your first date option. I think you should go with the second. Enjoy!

      • Thank you very much for your help. We were thinking of Nov 4 to 11 because it would mean we would avoid being their the long weekend (we’d be traveling home on the 11th). But if you think the crowds will be ok then maybe we should come the later option so that we see more Christmas fun.
        Which holiday attractions will be closed for the first option?
        We also saw that their is some kind of Avengers super hero half marathon at Disney from Nov 10 to 13. We were worried that might bring in big crowds too.

  72. Hi Casey! Thanks for all the great info! We’re arriving November 6th and leave on the 11th. Do you think the decorations will be up before the 10th? And will other holiday things (food, rides, etc.) possibly be available/going before then? I’m picturing us rushing around the parks on our last day to see and do as much as possible, which we can happily do, but would rather not. 🙂 Also, do you have any idea where Princess Elena will be? My five year old is SUPER excited she might be there when we are. Thanks so much!

    • Not sure of Elena’s location yet. I’ll update as soon as I know. Holiday immediately starts going up after Halloween is over, so you’ll see it develop each day you’re there. Treats and food don’t typically arrive early, but merchandise will. Enjoy!

  73. I am so excited! We will be there from December 28-January 2! (5 days at the Disney parks, one day to go see the Wizards. ?)
    I have so many questions, but this is a great help to begin with!

    Even in that busiest time of year, do you think we can see everything we want to? I mean, we aren’t adding a 6th Disney day, but I want to be sure we can do as many rides as possible but still take in all of the other things!

  74. Hey Casey! LOVE what you do and I thank you! I was wondering if the santa pictures have a year on them or if it says Disneyland/CA Adventure? Also how soon is santa available at the parks? Thank you for all you do! I’ve been following your posts for the past three years and my Disney vacations are better thanks to you!

    • Thank you, Camille. 🙂 The photos are standard PhotoPass images, so they don’t say anything and you won’t get print outs unless you purchase them at the photo shops. You will own the images with your PhotoPass One Day or One Week or Collection purchase and can print at home. Or if you want print outs, the shops will do that for you. They may be able to add a date with a cute border. Check out the PhotoPass post here for more on that:

      So, the Santa visit is free and then you can use your phone or own camera for pics or buy Disney’s PhotoPass option.

      Santa typically arrives on opening day at each park, which is November 10 this year. I’ll be there to report on him and more! Can’t wait.

  75. Hi Casey,
    We’re going to DLR from January 1-6. We’ve only been to the parks once before, years ago, and we’re super excited to see them done up for Christmas. Our flight arrives at 3pm. Would it be possible to get into either park on New Years Day or will they have reached capacity? Or should we just wait until January 2nd to start our park days? Thanks for this amazing site!

    • Great question. There are just a few days each year that reach capacity. NYE and New Years’s Day are good possibilities for it. However, tiered pricing and people not renewing APs could change that this season. I would plan on the 2nd just because I wouldn’t want to spend the money on so few hours in the park. But, we might have a better idea of capacity as we get closer to your timing. Feel free to contact me again in case I can give you a better estimate.

  76. Hi Casey! I love everything about your blog – you have so much helpful information! I’m from Oregon and have been to Disneyland several times at Christmas time, but want to go at a non-Christmas time for a new experience. I planed a trip for January 3-7, 2017. Do you know if the Christmas music is still playing at that time? Are the decorations being taken down at that time, or is everything still in full ‘Christmas’ mode? Any inside info you have from the experience of being there that first week of January would be really really helpful!
    Thank you!!

    • Hi, Joan.

      In 2016, Holidays officially ended on January 6. I’m expecting the same for 2017, give or take a few days. Until then, Holiday is in full swing – music, decor, attraction overlays, etc…’s all still Christmas. As soon as Disney announces the dates for this coming season, I’ll update this post with that information. Hopefully you can better plan then. Stay tuned! Usually happens early Fall.

      • Just a heads up, we went Jan 2015 (a few days after MLK day), and there was still some Christmas decorations up, and Small World was still Christmas ?? that was a happy surprise cuz I know it’s usually way done by then ?

  77. We just got back from our first Disneyland vacation as a family of 4. It was our 5 year old and 2 year olds very first time. Your tips helped our 2 days (1 park per day) run so smoothly! Both the Hubby & I have the itch to go back ASAP & are currently planning to go back during Christmas time. I just want to thank you, again, for keeping this blog. I was already excited but after reading all the goodies and festivities that happen during the holidays, I MUST GO BACK!

  78. Hi! Are there any rumors yet about when the Holiday season will start this year (2016-2017)? We are considering a visit from Nov 14-18. From the very first day of the holiday season, are all the decorations up and are parades/fireworks shown every day?

    Amy 🙂
    Love your blog btw.

    • No timing mentioned yet. But the last two years included a start date of November 13. Nearly everything is up and running day 1, so you’ll be in good shape. Stay tuned for an update on this post as soon as I learn more!

  79. Hi Casey,

    First time visiting Disneyland park with my 2 yr old and i would like to see all the evening parades. Your site has been really useful by the way. I checked the times and available parades for Disneyland on their website and I’m confused between Disneyland Forever and Fireworks at Disneyland, are they the same? They both start at 9pm. Then there’s also the Paint the Night at 8:45 PM and will run for 40 minutes which will overlap with the Fantasmic (9PM) and fireworks.

    Would you be able to clear this scheduling up? I would love to see all four of them plus the Fantasy parade. Thanks in advance!

    • Good question, Calvin. I’m not sure why Disney does this, but Disneyland Forever IS Fireworks at Disneyland.

      Paint the Night and Fantasmic! usually overlap because Disney wants you to choose one or the other and then everyone watch fireworks. Which day are you visiting? I’ll try to find a way for you to see it all if I know the date.

      • We’ll be there on the 22nd which is a Tuesday. If I can only choose between Paint the night and Fantasmic, which would you suggest? Thanks again.

        Btw, would like to dress up my daughter as a princess but I’m afraid she’ll get cold wearing those costumes. How did you dress your daughters up for Christmas time at Disneyland?

        • Hey, there.

          OK, here is what I suggest:

          3:15pm Christmas Fantasy Parade

          5:45pm Paint the Night Parade

          9:00pm Fantasmic! (Grab FASTPASSES for reserved seating for this show on Big Thunder Ranch Trail in Frontierland in the morning. Then, stay where you are for the fireworks. You won’t have a good view of the castle but the projections happen over the Rivers of America on a water screen and you’ll have your own set of fireworks in addition to the large show.)

          9:30pm Disneyland Forever Fireworks

          So, I think you can do both. Regarding dressing princesses, put them in leggings and a long sleeve tshirt and then a simple play dress. Then, put their princess dress over the play dress. Have them wear boots if possible. Bring a sweater, too. I often bring my daughter a light scarf, too. Hope this helps!

  80. Hi Casey! We’re taking the kids to DLR for the first time 27-29th December. We know we are crazy and the crowds will be chaos! I wish we had booked an onsite hotel, but we are staying close. We have restaurant reservations for WOC and Fantasmic fastpasses. We’ve identified our must see/must do’s and we’re not being too ambitious with the number of attractions. Mostly about Star Wars, Cars and soaking in the atmosphere and staying safe. The plan for Day 1 was to go early, do Star Wars , Space Mountain, Indiana Jones etc, take snacks with us, maybe ride the train, do the Sailing Ship Columbia. Then escape to the hotel for nap/hot tub/shower. Then return for dinner reservations and the evening entertainment. I’m worried though whether we would be able to get back into the park. What do you think? Then Day 2 I was thinking of having a hang at the hotel kind of morning and arrive for our lunch reservations, do the CA attractions and stay for WOC. Bad idea? Do we need to arrive early and stay all day late and then do it all again the next day?

    • Sounds like fun! I actually recommend arriving early, before park opening, and then taking a mid-day break. That way, you’ll avoid the crowds and get more done in the morning. The only issue you might encounter, however, is that the days you’re visiting will be super crowded and the park may reach capacity, which means that if you leave, you might not be allowed back in. So, keep that in mind for sure.

  81. Hello Casey!

    I would like to know if anything is added to the Character Dining experience during Christmas. Do the prices stay the same? Are the all characters in Christmas clothing? We are thinking of doing a character dining Christmas morning so I just wondered if I should expect a little extra magic.

    • We were at Disneyland Dec 3-7 and had two character breakfasts. Surf’s Up with Mickey was just standard beachwear, but Minnie was in her holiday outfit at the Plaza Inn. They also had an amazing Christmas tree set up inside the Plaza Inn!

      • Thanks so much we are planning for 2016 Christmas and Surfs up was our #1 choice for our boys but not if they are not in their Christmas outfits. We will plan on Plaza Inn. Thank you!

  82. We’ve only been to DLR once during Christmas and that was 5 years ago. We are really looking forward to bringing our 4 year old this time! Last time we were there, they had reindeer at Big Thunder Ranch. Any word on whether they will be there before the ranch shuts down? We would so love to see them again!

    Also, had no idea about the candy canes! I plan on making that a priority as my little man will LOVE that!

    Thanks Casey!

  83. Thank you so much for this awesome site! It has been hugely helpful in planning our trip. We are going at the beginning of December with a 2 month old and a 3 year old. We will have a 3 day park hopper and I just want some advice about the parades/entertainment. I read all about the parades that you posted and we plan to sit near small world for the first paint the night parade. But can you offer advice about when to see the Christmas parade? We will be there on December 10 and December 12 and looking at the schedule, the Christmas parade is way earlier than paint the night. So I don’t see how it would be reasonable to stay in our spots the entire time. Any tips there? We are planning to see Fantasmic one night, and Paint the Night the other night. When should we see the Christmas parade? And where should we sit? THANK YOU!

  84. Hi. Love your blog and all the useful information. If you get a wristband for a candy cane, do they give you a specific time to come back or would you be able to get the candy cane immediately? Thank you.

  85. Hi Casey! Love your blog; it is so helpful. I am planning a trip to Disneyland next year at around this time; do you suggest going the week before Thanksgiving? Will the Christmas decorations and events be up by then? Do you think it might be crowded?

    Thanks very much!

  86. We are plannig to visit DCA on 1/7 and then Disneyland on 1/8 & 1/10. Should we expect to see the holiday decor transitioning out of the park or is it cleared out overnight?

  87. Hi! I’ve been to Disneyland several times, but absolutely love your site to learn new things. Do you know if the pumpkin beignets will be offered at Café Orleans, or only at Mint Julep Bar?

  88. I am at California Adventure today. They announced this morning that as of today, there are no more fast passes to meet Anna and Elsa. Your site has been invaluable and has made our trip so much better exclamation thank you!

  89. Casey your website is amazing! Thanks so much for all this info. Using your 1 day plan for littles. Where would you fit in the christmas parade do you think? We are taking our girls 3 and 1 at the end of my husbands work trip. Going on 21 Nov from Australia. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Dee!

      The Christmas parade will be in the afternoon (not sure of the time yet). This will proceed Paint the Night, the nighttime parade that is shown at dark. Set up about an hour prior to what time of the day the parade starts for the time you’re visiting. I’ll have more information asap on timing and such as we get further into the season, but here is another post on parades to give you some ideas on where to sit and what each location has as far as advantages go:

  90. Is Disneyland Santa just totally lame? We aren’t doing a park hopper this trip, and I thought it would be fun to add Santa since he would be included in the photopass. Our little guy will only be nine months old, so really it’s just a quick gratuitous trip for us to eat some Mickey shaped food and take cute pictures. Daddy would probably prefer waiting in line for Christmas pictures with Chewbacca anyway so if he’s lame we’ll just skip him. We’re thinking about Monday the 14th if that makes a difference. Thank you!

    • Not lame at all. But, I prefer the California Adventure version. It’s just more old school and feels like NYC Macy’s to me. Disneyland will be a different set up this year, too, as it won’t be in Big Thunder Ranch, but instead in Critter Country, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. Can’t hurt to walk by and check it out. I’ll have photos of him, too, asap.

  91. Amazing. Im so excited. I was at disneyland 15 years ago for xmas but as 21 year old i didn’t stop to appreciate all the christmas things. Now taking my 9 and 7 year old this December I am so excited. 7 weeks till we leave Australia!

      • Hi Casey,

        I’m thinking of taking the family to disneyland this Christmas seson. We always go in the summer so this will be the first time in December. What do we need to know the kids are 16 and 14 it’s all about the rides. What else should we look out for or do then.